'Tis the season . . . for the Freedom From Religion Foundation's gilt Winter Solstice message, which returns today, for its 18th visit to the first-floor rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol through December.
The solstice message in the Capitol was composed by Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation co-president emerita, and says:
"At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
On the back is a poem by celebrated Wisconsin poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (famed for "Laugh and the world laughs with you”).
The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season, says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. Occurring this year on Dec. 21, it marks the shortest, darkest day of the year, and heralds the symbolic rebirth of the Sun. It’s been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreen, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.
Today also marks the third return of FFRF's “natural nativity scene,” which was unveiled in 2011 to recognize the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun — Dies Natalis Invicti Solis — not baby Jesus. FFRF’s baby is black and female, for egalitarianism, and to acknowledge that humankind was birthed in Africa. Our wisepeople depict atheists and scientific giants Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, plus wisewoman Emma Goldman — with humorist Mark Twain and Founding father Thomas Jefferson thrown in for good measure.
Venus, like Mary, represents a mythical fertility symbol, but also our solar system. FFRF’s “angels” are also natural — the Statue of Liberty and an astronaut.
“Our display celebrates the human family, reason and the Winter Solstice,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. Crafted by FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, it was placed after a Religious Right group put up a devotional nativity scene for the first time in the Capitol.
“FFRF would vastly prefer that government buildings and seats of government be free from religion — and irreligion. It is divisive. The rotunda is getting very cluttered. But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be ‘room at the inn’ for all points of view, including irreverency and freethought,” said Gaylor.
Barker added: “In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality.”
Read FFRF’s flyer: Away with the manger — in with the Solstice!